These are the manic ramblings that go through my head at all hours of the day or night.
I love comic books. More than that, I love SUPERHERO comics. You know, the arrested development stories where dudes in spandex beat the shit out of each other for 22 pages in an unending, pointless struggle with some bullshit or another. I honestly LOVE them. I’ll take Iron Man over fucking Blankets any day. There’s something invigorating about it. The violence, the high melodrama.
But honestly, there’s a part of me that, were there to suddenly spring up a new reich and all us comic book fans were loaded into the trains and sent off for the work camps, I’d say to myself, “Yeah, we sort of had that coming.”
I finished “Supergods” by Grant Morrison a week or so ago. I liked it. I really like Morrison, not just his work but his perspective. I like where his head is at. He has a certain love and reverence for the Superhero that is exciting and charming. He is simultaneously an intellectual, psychedelic, messianic spaceman set on spiking everyone’s punch and a wide-eyed kid reading the latest issue of Green Lantern under his covers at night. He (very nearly) has the ambition and craft of Alan Moore, but without the almost compulsive need to gruffly dismiss the most popular genre as shite. He has a certain filter for pop culture that I like.
The book is a lovely read, even if its a bit light on substance and frequently new-agey nonsense. He can be occasionally too much of a smart-aleck apologist (a skill all us superhero nuts develop early and hone over the years), but he’s a creative and open minded one.
Anyway, my favorite of his meditations was on the nature of fiction. His take (as far as I can understand it) is that nothing is real and that everything is real and that is FANTASTIC. Everything counts, even though none of it really matters, and that is EXACTLY why it is the most important thing.
He’s a metafiction guy, but not self-conciously so like Neil Gaiman (who seems obsessed with telling stories about telling stories and, at some point during the story, grabs you by the ears and goes, “HEY, DID YOU KNOW I’M TELLING YOU A STORY???”). He talks about characters as both unchanging and completely adaptable, utterly fluid. The ones that exist most sublimely in this state are the most enduring, the recognizable icons. And they cannot be broken or discarded so long as they have relevance and resonance with us as readers.
This is a really beautiful, lovely idea. It’s nuanced, encompassing, and its utterly benign. Morrison is doing God’s (himself a fictional construct) work by saying it.
But we comic book fans, the vocal majority of us, can’t seem to accept this. We can’t seem to accept and be comforted by the fact that these things we care about AREN’T REAL and THAT’S FINE. Seriously. Want an example? Bitches be tripping over the fact that Thor said “ass.” Or, even worse, how Morrison’s new, rebooted Superman said “GD” resulting in calls for boycotts.
Fraction (a disciple of Morrison) defends his right to, y’know, do his fucking job thusly:
I just did an interview on Fear Itself #5, and it’s gone from having questions to being told, now, that Thor wouldn’t say “ass.” Thor isn’t real. My Thor doesn’t talk like Stan [Lee]‘s Thor and his Thor didn’t talk like [J. Michael Straczynzki]‘s Thor, and his Thor didn’t talk like Walter [Simonson]‘s Thor. Everybody’s Thor talks differently. Also, being told that Spider-Man wouldn’t leave. Spider-Man, who has single-handedly kept the costume-shaped trash can industry afloat in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man, who has quit numerous times. I’ve been accused of misspelling the name of a character I made up. I made it up; I can spell it however I want to. I can spell Odin with a “U” if I want to.
This is an utterly sensible response to utterly nonsensable criticism. He’s writing a character the way he sees fit. Obviously Marvel (and, a few notches up the totem pole, DISNEY) doesn’t have a problem with this or they would have shitcanned his ass. More than that, how these character would talk is a totally moot point since thy don’t talk unless WE (as creators/readers) have them say something. They are fiction.
Predictably, the comments that follow are shameful. Not shameful as much for their ignorance, but for their stubborn inability to let go. There are a few that hem and haw in the semblance of logic, usually to the effect of “I understand his logic, but he’s wrong,” but a choice bit of righteous indignation that sort of typifies the response is this:
You… You people don’t get it do you? THIS IS WHY PEOPLE THINK SUPERHEROES ARE FOR KIDS AND RETARDS. Because you stubborn fucks believe that they “belong” to anyone but the eons and that any interpretation that “rings false” can actually cheapen the stories you love and is worth getting mad about. THESE CHARACTERS AREN’T TOYS. They don’t “belong” to us, or Marvel, or Disney, or America, or ANYONE. They are sewn into the fabric of forever, always able to be thrown on in infinite iterations without ever expending their value.
STOP IT. You’re ruining it for the rest of us. Please, GROW UP. People see us obsessing over these arcane and inane “rules” and seeing profundity in the trivia and they lose respect for the genre. And frankly, THEY SHOULD. Not because the nerd archetype is innately “flawed” or because “geeking out” over something is wrong, but because we childishly believe that OUR fictional constructs somehow is exempt from the rules of popular interpretation. Being a canon aficionado isn’t a crime unless one loses track of the fact that canon exists within the endless continuum of reality and that just leads to better, more compelling art.
We are killing the thing we love by sheltering and doting on it. People see us toting around the bloated, drooling object of our affection, dressed in clothing too tight for it’s age, and they are disgusted and baffled by it. THAT is where the image of the overweight, nitpicky, slovenly nerd originates: it is potential gone stagnant. They see it reflected in the art we love and they shake their heads disapprovingly.
Please. This is a plea to any rational, reasonable people out there who love superheroes and wouldn’t mind seeing comics remain relevant: be generous and open-minded. These ideas are stronger and more pliant than you could ever imagine. Spiderman will survive being half black and half hispanic. Superman will still be superman despite utterly a polite curse-word. Thor will still be a BAMF with a hammer after saying “ass.”